Warner Bros. Discovery (WBD), the multinational media and entertainment giant, is adding a sports tier to its Max direct-to-consumer streaming service in the US as it looks to drive adoption and revenue.
WBD launched Max earlier this year, combining the content of both HBO Max and Discovery+ into a single service. Until now, the media giant's sports content has been absent from the platform.
The move will see Max include a new package that will simulcast live sports events that have been available only on the company’s traditional linear networks TNT and TBS.
The package, named the Bleacher Report Sports Add-On, will include coverage of baseball’s Major League Baseball, ice hockey’s NHL, basketball’s NBA, college basketball’s March Madness, motor racing’s annual 24 Hours of Le Mans, and games involving the US national men’s and women’s soccer teams.
The offering will also include live video and other content from sports news portal Bleacher Report, as well as TNT’s Inside the NBA studio program. Overall, WBD said it will stream 300 live events per year, including 60 NHL regular season games, 65 NBA regular season games, and post-season for both leagues.
It will also air the NBA's new in-season tournament beginning in November.
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The new package will launch on October 5, in time for the MLB post-season, with Max subscribers gaining free access to the tier through February 29. After this, it will cost an additional $9.99 per month to retain.
Luis Silberwasser, WBD Sports’ chair and chief executive, said: “We want to be everywhere sports fans are and our unparalleled offering of leading sports, combined with the power of the Bleacher Report brand and content, including the unique way Bleacher Report engages with young sports fans, all delivered through the new Max platform will enable us to broaden our audience and delight new fans.
“We are uniquely positioned to offer viewers the best selection of premium sports and exciting events and fan-focused additional programming, all within a fantastic multi-sport product that will meet the evolving consumption needs of our viewers – both casual and hardcore sports fans.”
The tier comes as WBD tries to balance moving its sports portfolio into the digital world without harming its existing linear viewership and revenue streams as US audiences continue to ‘cut the cord’ in favor of streaming platforms.
Last year, TNT and TBS generated $1.6 billion in advertising, almost 5% of the company’s overall revenue that year.
The new tier is seen by WBD as the best way to fend off any impact on its legacy business while attracting new customers and gaining new profits from streaming. The media giant has employed a similar tactic in the UK, by adding its TNT Sports proposition to a standard Discovery+ subscription.
WBD is also planning to launch a CNN Max service on the streaming platform next week as part of its new digital strategy. That product will simulcast some live hours from linear CNN featuring content from the network’s top anchors.
The media giant lost 1.8 million streaming subscribers between April and June, with current customers standing at 95.8 million. However, the drop was expected as 4 million customers were signed up to both Discovery+ and HBO Max, with many dropping one subscription in favor of the combined package.
WBD’s move in the live sports streaming space echoes that of Disney, which has bundled its sports broadcaster ESPN+ with its Disney+ entertainment in one package. The Paramount+ platform, meanwhile, has also made live sport a major part of its appeal.
Most broadcasters have avoided a wholesale migration of live sports from cable to streaming, with WBD, ESPN, and national network Fox keeping their most premium content exclusive to their network and cable channels to stave off cord-cutting and end a reliable revenue stream.